MOORESVILLE, N.C. (December 3, 2008) - It's been an exciting year for Team Penske, with drivers Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe both finishing in the top-five in the 2008 IndyCar Series Championship, racking up five wins and six pole positions over the 18-race season, overcoming adversity, creating milestones and setting records along the way.
Veteran driver and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and his No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda team finished a hard-fought second place in the 2008 IndyCar Series Championship standings. Castroneves' championship-bid season featured two wins, including the second-closest finish in IndyCar Series history at Chicagoland Speedway and a dominating performance at Infineon Raceway, a series-record eight second-place finishes, 15 top-fives and three pole positions.
Ryan Briscoe, a newcomer to Team Penske in 2008 and driver of the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, had a breakthrough season, posting two regular-season victories, including Penske Racing's 300th championship points win (Milwaukee) since the team's inception in 1966. Briscoe also recorded a dominating victory at Mid-Ohio to go along with five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. His hard work resulted in a fifth-place spot in the 2008 IndyCar Series Championship standings.
Briscoe capped off his outstanding year with a post-season non-championship points win in his home country of Australia, making him the first Australian to win the eight-year-old race. The win made him the only driver in the Series to win on all three types of circuits in 2008 - oval (Milwaukee), permanent road course (Mid-Ohio) and temporary street course (Australia) and prepared him and the No. 6 team for the 2009 season, which kicks off with two temporary street course events - St. Petersburg and Long Beach.
A Team Penske summary of the 2008 IndyCar Series events:
March 29, GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300, Homestead Miami Speedway - Castroneves fourth, Briscoe 19th
Race winner: Scott Dixon
Castroneves piloted a strong race car to a fourth-place finish in the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300, the season opener for the IndyCar Series. Briscoe, making his debut for Team Penske, was collected by a spinning race car and crashed, eventually finishing 19th.
Castroneves said he could have done better but was pleased with his showing. "The Team Penske car handled really well tonight," he said. "But we just didn't have the speed that the top few guys had. Thankfully, we were able to stay out of trouble and bring home a solid finish. The championship is our ultimate goal, and we were able to score some valuable points."
Briscoe's luck went the opposite way. On the 127th lap of the 200-lap race, he was caught in the crash of Milka Duno's car. At the time, Briscoe was racing solidly among the lead group.
April 6, Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg - Castroneves second, Briscoe 23rd
Race winner: Graham Rahal
In St. Petersburg, Castroneves challenged eventual race-winner Graham Rahal on the final restart before finishing second in the first street race of the IndyCar Series season, a showing that gave him the points lead after the second race of 2008.
"At the end, I was really, really trying," Castroneves said of his late-race pursuit of Rahal. "I wanted no yellows at that point. When I saw Graham lock his tires, I was like, 'OK, here's my chance.' I kept waiting for another chance, but he never gave me one."
Briscoe led 11 laps before a crash on the 57th lap of the 83-lap race left him 23rd in the final results. "We had made all the right calls on tires and pitting, but unfortunately I cost us a chance at a win," Briscoe said. "It's a frustrating start to the season because we've had great cars with a chance to contend for the win in both races."
April 20, Indy Japan 300, Twin Ring Motegi - Castroneves second, Briscoe ninth
Race winner: Danica Patrick
Castroneves maintained his IndyCar Series points lead by finishing second for Team Penske in the Indy Japan 300.
Castroneves led 94 of the 200 laps and worked his way back to the front with five laps to go. But he slowed dramatically heading into the third turn on the 198th lap when his car ran low on fuel, and Danica Patrick took the lead. She became the first woman to win a major closed-course auto race. "She passed me fair and square," said Castroneves after the race. "I didn't have enough fuel even if I wanted to fight with her."
Teammate Briscoe finished ninth.
April 27, Road Runner Turbo Indy 300, Kansas Speedway - Castroneves fourth, Briscoe seventh
Race winner: Dan Wheldon
Both Team Penske drivers finished among the top seven, while Castroneves finished fourth to hold the lead in the IndyCar Series standings.
"Thankfully, we were able to stay out of trouble and bring home a fourth-place finish, which keeps us in the championship lead heading into Indy," said Castroneves after the race.
Briscoe scored a seventh-place finish, his best result in the first four races of the season.
May 25, The Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Castroneves fourth, Briscoe 23rd
Race winner: Scott Dixon
Castroneves came back from serious damage to his car to finish fourth in the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500. After he struck debris from a crash early in the day, Castroneves' watched his crew repair the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda to get him back in the race.
"Fourth place is definitely not what we expected," Castroneves said. "We tried everything we could. We had a little issue with the debris. I was trying to avoid a slow car; I slammed on the brakes instead of hitting him. I pulled away and a piece of the debris hit my front wing, so we had to stop to change that. Let me tell you, wow, what a team."
Meanwhile, Briscoe encountered trouble in the pits and finished 23rd. The young Australian was running well when he collided with Danica Patrick's car on pit lane. The accident forced Team Penske to park the No. 6 car.
"From what I can see, there was still plenty of room on the right side for her to get around and there are people pointing fingers, but that's not the way we are," Briscoe said. "We both have a brake pedal in our cars, and from what I can tell, there was still plenty of room for her to get around me. I was trying to get around (Dan) Wheldon, and I was staying in the middle lane. I got ran up in the back, and it's a shame."
June 1, ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225, The Milwaukee Mile - Castroneves fifth, Briscoe first
Race winner: Ryan Briscoe
Briscoe had his first - and Penske Racing had its 300th. Briscoe narrowly avoided a crash with two laps remaining and went on to win the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225, his first victory in the IndyCar Series and the 300th championship points victory in the history of Penske Racing.
Briscoe was leading Scott Dixon when Marco Andretti's car slid up the track in Turn 2 and clipped Ed Carpenter's car, which spun and hit the wall. As Briscoe and Dixon approached the crash, Vitor Meira's car stuck Andretti's car and became airborne. Briscoe braked suddenly and missed the wreck, then idled around the track to w